There’s nothing new about these “blurred lines”: BusinessWeek’s Stephen Baker wrote this on Blogspotting: “Most corporations and media outlets haven’t figured out yet how to revamp compensation for the new age. Very few journalists, for example, are evaluated for customer relations. That’s almost sacrilege, the province of the advertising or marketing side of the business. But blogging is blurring the line between these domains. Perhaps the best way to measure the value of bloggers inside the company is to see how they fare when they leave. There’s a growing list of case studies out there.”
It is strange when I find myself disagreeing with Stephen Baker, but media companies have been one of the pioneers in finding creative ways to line up the corporate interests of a media property with the “value” of the talent associated with that property. How about when a reporter writes an article that leads to a book deal and the media outlet lets him or her take a leave to do the book? I’m not referring to anyone in particular, but, to remove any suggestion, let’s use someone who works for a company other than McGraw-Hill. Let’s say, Malcolm Gladwell and the New Yorker (or there’s a parade of examples there, including my favorite, John McPhee). Gladwell has become a media empire himself yet he still is a “staff writer” for the New Yorker. Conde-Nast is constantly trying to juggle its corporate interests with that of some of its stars. It has figured out how to do so at the New Yorker, but hasn’t fared so well with other of its outlets.
However, that talented individuals (or, as they say in Hollywood, “talent”) can achieve a level of success so that their “personal brand’s” value rivals the media’s brand the person is employed by is nothing new. There are plenty of “case studies out there” that show how much news anchors can charge for an hour-long private gig, for example. Many coaches and athletes make more money from independent advertising and media deals than they make from their corporate gigs (which in some cases, can be employment with a team owned by a media company). And in Hollywood, the independent “talent” constantly is re-negotiating with and moving among “media outlets” (like Time-Warner, Inc.) — and the whole blurring of the lines thing is no big deal (but it involves some really big dealing). That writers can move between working for da man (which Om will continue to do, as he’ll still have a regular check from Time-Warner, Inc.) and do his own thing is nothing new just because it involves a blogging platform.